Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Mark Tobey (1890-1976)

Structures for Time

Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
Structures for Time
signed and dated 'Tobey 59’ (on the reverse)
tempera on canvas board
17.7/8 x 13.3/4in. (45.4 x 34.8cm.)
Executed in 1959
Galerie Beyeler, Basle.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1964.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Mark Tobey, 1966 no. 81. This exhibition later travelled to Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft.
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Sammlung Bechtler, 1982, no. 209.
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Further details
Achim Moeller of the Mark Tobey Project LLC has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which is listed under no. 166-12-16-13.

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Lot Essay

A hypnotic web of intricately woven lines, Structures for Time is a virtuosic testimony to Mark Tobey’s mastery of optical space. A captivating mesh of white and blue bedecks a dark ground piqued with flecks of lighter paint, creating a textural intensity that draws the viewer into its vibrant alternative reality. Brimming with gestural exuberance, Structures for Time is a vivid example of Tobey’s so-called ‘white writing’, the painterly technique for which he is best known, and a product of his first visit to the Far East in 1934. It was here that Tobey was first exposed to the ancient art of calligraphy, a practice that was to have a profound influence on his work. From here on, Tobey’s work was driven by an obsession with line and its ability to convey both spatial and temporal conditions. Indeed, for Tobey, linearity was to become a kind of language in its own right, generating exquisite plateaus from which discernable forms emerge and recede before our eyes. Premised on the notion that all forms of existence – both natural and cosmopolitan – could be understood as sprawling chains of interconnected elements, Tobey’s work meditates upon the complex structures of the universal. In Structures for Time, the rarefied, luminous quality of Tobey’s line allows us to contemplate the possibility of looking at time under a zoom lens - of observing the invisible, and giving contour to the infinite.

Executed in 1959, the work is situated at a seminal moment in the artist’s career: between winning the International Painting Prize at the 1958 Venice Biennale and his prestigious retrospective at the Palais du Louvre in 1961. As Judith S. Kays notes, Tobey was the first living American to be honoured with the latter, and the first since Whistler to achieve the former (J. S. Kays, ‘Mark Tobey and Jackson Pollock: Setting the Record Straight’ in Mark Tobey, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1997, p. 91). In his ‘white writings’, critics have furthermore identified the roots of American modernist painting – in particular Abstract Expressionism - highlighting his technical innovation as an important source of inspiration for artists from Jackson Pollock to Sam Francis. It is significant, however, that Tobey’s national acclaim was fundamentally a product of his international outlook. Representing America in Europe, yet with his head firmly turned towards the East, Tobey’s artistic practice is truly global in its orientation.

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